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“Why you should be optimistic.” With Beau Henderson & Edie Weinstein

I toggle back and forth between fear/doubt and love/trust. I call myself an ‘opti-mystic’ who views the world through the eyes of possibility. I skew toward the latter and what helps is surrounding myself with kindred spirits who are pacifist/activists who put legs under their passion for peace. Being a pacifist doesn’t imply being passive. […]

I toggle back and forth between fear/doubt and love/trust. I call myself an ‘opti-mystic’ who views the world through the eyes of possibility. I skew toward the latter and what helps is surrounding myself with kindred spirits who are pacifist/activists who put legs under their passion for peace. Being a pacifist doesn’t imply being passive. There is a growing number of people who are out there making a difference. I am one of them. I show up, stand up and speak out any chance I can about peace and social justice issues.


As part of our series about ‘5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country’, I had the pleasure of interviewing Reverend Edie Weinstein.

Rev. Edie Weinstein, MSW, LSW is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, ordained interfaith minister, journalist, author, editor, event producer and speaker and opti-mystic. She assists people in living rich, full, juicy lives as they navigate sometimes unpredictable waters. Her greatest joy is bringing people together across all divides.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

I grew up in Willingboro, NJ which is one of the original Levittown communities in suburban Philadelphia. In the 1960s it was primarily populated by light complexioned folks. The builder of the community refused to sell to Black families until a lawsuit changed that. My parents honored diversity and my sister, and I had friends of various religions, skin hues, and cultures. They walked their talk and we practiced the Jewish religion in synagogue, home and on the street. The concept of Tikkun Olam (repair of the world) and Tzedakah (charity) were a part of my childhood. They were active volunteers in the community and modeled that for us. They had a wonderful, loving marriage that lasted for nearly 52 years when my dad died in 2008. My mom followed him in 2010. Affection was free-flowing, and no one left the house without a hug and no one entered without a hug. That included our friends who knew they were always welcome. My maternal grandmother who lived with us, was like a third parent. She died when I was four and within a few months I was diagnosed with asthma. That contributed to my workaholism, since I was not about to let a health condition keep me down. I swam on a local swim team from ages 11–18 and then became a lifeguard and coach for three summers. That enabled me to take on a leadership role at an early age and I value it to this day.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach looms large in my life. I read it in college in the late 1970s. It is part allegorical and part factual according to Richard who I interviewed in the 1980s and tells the tale of his ‘meeting’ with Donald Shimoda who was the title character. Richard was a barnstormer as was Donald who taught him valuable lessons about the power of thought to manifest reality. One of my favorite quotes is this one, “The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof.”

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

Two were important pieces of advice. One came from my father Moish who reminded me that, “They put their pants on one leg at a time, just like you do.” My mother Selma advised me, “Walk in like you own the joint,” with head held high, shoulders back, making eye contact. Both bits of wisdom that I called ‘Mom-isms and Dad wisdom, assisted me in interviewing some of the most amazing notables on the planet. These included Ram Dass, Wayne Dyer, Marianne Williamson, Mariel Hemingway, Bella Abzug, don Miguel Ruiz, Bernie Siegel, Shirley MacLaine, Ben & Jerry, Grover Washington, Jr., Richie Havens, Pete Seeger, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama,

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership means the ability and willingness to set a positive example for others, encouraging them to blaze their own trail and not follow the leader down his or her path. No one can fully walk in another’s shoes. It implies a need to be in integrity and accountable for choices and actions. It is about empowering and not overpowering others. It includes the ability to uplift and inspire. There is no need to be put on a pedestal. I like to say that pedestals are for statues. They are comfortable being in the spotlight but need not be. They may be charismatic or quiet. They fit the description of ‘servant leader’. These people often put the needs of the collective before their own, are visionaries, and know how to delegate responsibility. They are happy to share the glory, should it arrive. They have a high EQ (Emotional Intelligence) and know how to relate to others. I am grateful to know many who live by those values.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The United States is currently facing a series of unprecedented crises. So many of us see the news and ask how we can help. We’d love to talk about the steps that each of us can take to help heal our county, in our own way. Which particular crisis would you like to discuss with us today? Why does that resonate with you so much?

Inequality denied to people because of gender presentation, sexual orientation, skin color, socio-economic background, religion, or country of origin. It resonates strongly with me, because as a white, middle class, cis-gender, well educated woman I have privilege that is denied many. I have a voice that is to be used to stand with those whose voice is squelched or ignored.

This is likely a huge topic. But briefly, can you share your view on how this crisis inexorably evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?

It began eons ago when setting the standard for value and power was given to white, Christian, heterosexual, cis-gender men. Not meaning to demonize men who are in that category, if they choose to use their privilege to encourage freedom and equal rights for all. My perception is that it evolved into the current situation because marginalized people are saying ‘enough is enough,’ and taking it to the streets, and to the voting booths.

Can you tell our readers a bit about your experience either working on this cause or your experience being impacted by it? Can you share a story with us?

I have marched for the ERA (the major reason it was voted down was that people feared it would mean mixed gender bathrooms) in college, for LGBTQ+ rights in my 20s and beyond, spoke out for ‘No Nukes,’ and environmental protection throughout my 20s and 30s. In the following decades of my life, I have spoken out in support for gun control, climate change awareness, addressing the immigration/border crossing horrors, the Water Protectors, and Black Lives Matter.

Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share your “5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country”. Kindly share a story or example for each.

The first is to be aware of what is right and not just what is wrong with this picture. It is so easy to see the world primarily as a frightening, dark place, and the future as dystopic. Look around your community to see who is stepping up and helping out by donating money, time, food, and energy to pro-social causes. In this time when a virus is keeping us physically separated, it is bringing people closer together via technology. It is a great equalizer since the virus doesn’t care about your political affiliation, religion, skin hue, culture, sexuality, or gender identity. Envision a world in which there is enough for everyone, enough food, money, healthcare, autonomy, body sovereignty, education, and opportunity.

Question your values. What do you stand up for and what won’t you stand for? Were you raised to believe that each person is worthy of love, safety, equal compensation for equal skills, the right to be seen and heard, with the freedom to make choices that affect their lives? Were you taught that only certain people should expect to be treated that way? Culture and religion indoctrinate us and sometimes the message is not loving and embracing. Are you willing to challenge the beliefs that reinforce hatred. I am heartened by former neo-Nazis, white supremacists and KKK members who have forsworn their abhorrent ways and induced others to join them in disavowing violence. Regardless of which side of the political fence you sit, even if you disagree, do it with respect. If your intention is to change someone’s mind, remember, as my wise father used to say, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” No name calling or deriding. As Martin Luther King said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

See unity and diversity as essential components of acceptance. Being ‘colorblind,’ may seem like a virtue, but it serves to ignore eons of hatred toward people simply because of the amount of melanin in their skin. For those who are not PoC, it may be hard to imagine the fear in a parent who sends their child out into the world, not knowing if they may return unscathed emotionally or physically. For those who are cis-gender and heterosexual, they may have no clue what it is like to live as a transgender or Gay person. Notice that someone’s lived reality may be different from yours. What can you learn from them? Ask them and listen, really listen to the answer. Ask how you can be an ally.

Read the works of minority writers such as Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi CoatesThe Color Purple by Alice Walker, The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, Becoming by Michelle Obama, The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother by James McBrideThe Kite Runner by Khaled HosseiniBeloved by Toni Morrison, Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan, Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin, Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay, Gender Outlaws by Kate Bornstein, I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel, and Becoming Eve: My Journey from Ultra-Orthodox Rabbi to Transgender Woman by Abby Stein. These may provide you with an idea of the way the world looks through their eyes.

Discover what your strengths are. If you are an organizer, use that skill to put together community events, rallies, vigils, and marches. If you are a photographer or videographer, capture the experience and share it for posterity and those who couldn’t attend. If you are a journalist, write about the topics that call to you. If you are adept at fundraising, put together events that will fill the coffers of social justice organizations. If you are a social media maven, spread the word about what is going on in your community. If you are an entertainer, share your talents to express what you believe in. If you are a celebrity, use your platform and notoriety to lend support to causes that matter to you.

It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but what can we do to make these ideas a reality? What specific steps can you suggest to make these ideas actually happen? Are there things that the community can do to help you promote these ideas?

These were specific action steps that I mentioned above. I would add that if they matter to you, be vigilant in making them happen. It is also important to provide solid self-care since burnout is inevitable if you take on too much. I have heard it referred to as ‘resistance fatigue’. Know that we are all in this together and that it is a marathon and not a sprint.

We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?

I toggle back and forth between fear/doubt and love/trust. I call myself an ‘opti-mystic’ who views the world through the eyes of possibility. I skew toward the latter and what helps is surrounding myself with kindred spirits who are pacifist/activists who put legs under their passion for peace. Being a pacifist doesn’t imply being passive. There is a growing number of people who are out there making a difference. I am one of them. I show up, stand up and speak out any chance I can about peace and social justice issues.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

I am no longer considered young, at 61 (young at heart) but I encourage generations that came after me to be world changers since this is the planet you have inherited. Many of my demographic (Baby Boomers) really do care and show it by our actions. Some of us are embarrassed by what some of our peers have done to create this current reality. If you were raised in a socially active family like I was whose intention was to create a better world, follow your parents’ example and make your presence known. If you grew up with hatred and bigotry spoon fed to you, do your best to ‘eat at a different table,’ where all are welcome. In my community, the young people organize and show up at vigils, rallies, and protests in support of gun control, the environment and LGBTQ+ rights. Many are out there now at peaceful protests following the murder of George Floyd. Please have hope and don’t give up. Your future is calling.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I only get to pick one? Bummer. I would love to meet Archbishop Desmond Tutu since he is a kindred spirit with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. They are brothers from other mothers who embody compassion. I am gonna be a rebel here and add a few more. President Jimmy Carter since he is the ideal example of servant leader who at 95 remains active with Habitat For Humanity and his church. President Barack Obama continues to be the ‘comforter in chief,’ speaking truth to power without name calling or deriding his successor. Lastly, Brene’ Brown since her message is about vulnerability and authenticity. Of course, I would ask to interview them.

How can our readers follow you online?

www.opti-mystical.com https://www.facebook.com/snuggleyoga

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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